I’m sipping coffee in a little coffee shop midst Cleveland’s Little Italy… pondering a colleague’s recent question: “Why has business taken so long to see the value of social networking?” I look around. The place is packed. Patrons are communicating feverishly – with people located somewhere else. Texting. Talking on mobile phones. Clicking on laptops.
Our technology tools have become an extension of our voice and ears, and Social Media has become part of our language.
Businesses want to connect with, persuade and sell to people just like you and me – right? Yet, so many companies fail to embrace the communication modes so many of us prefer.
1 – Fear (of losing power and control)
Consider the history of the U.S. Postal System.
In the 1700’s, the British controlled the colonial postal system. By 1774, the colonists viewed the royal post office with suspicion. Shortly thereafter, an alternative inter-colonial mail service was established.
What’s the point? The inter-colonial mail service was the “social media”, the colonists were the “bloggers”… and those in power (the British) didn’t like it.
2 – Social Media has a bad rep (for business)
Consider the origin of Social Media. It didn’t start with computers, but it was born on-line… the phone-line that is. It was known as “phone phreaking”. Phone phreaks were techies tired of the telecom monopoly extending sizable charges for long distance calls. These early explorers built phone-system tapping devices that allowed them to make free calls and conduct virtual group discussions.
More recent Social Media ancestors include Limewire and Napster - through which music was shared.
A number of corporations, telephone companies and record labels look back on this history often sighting a different word; Stolen.
3 – What’s in a name? Everything.
The very term “Social Media” conveys images of idle socializing, gossip and misinformation. If it were referred to as “Critical Business-Advancement Messaging Networks” businesses would consider it more popular than the buzzword of the day.
This is where NING and others have an upper hand. Though the name may mean different things to different people; the design of the solution resonates with business-types. Like Sun Microsystems said back in the 90’s “the network is the solution”. That’s what NING conveys - a solution providing user-controlled networks for specific applications and communities of interest. It implies context and purpose.
So why should you (and your company) leverage Social Media?
1 – The people you want to hire use it – a lot.
Today, in the 21st Century, smart businesses realize that value-creation depends on ideas, creativity and collaboration. Social Media is the mechanism of choice for many of today’s talented creative innovators. Your company culture should be friendly to Social Media (unless of course you don’t want smart innovators on your team).
Have you hired anyone lately without looking at their LinkedIn profile? Do you know that the top talent is likely evaluating your company’s Social Media presence - as a qualifier as to whether they want to work for you (or not)?
2 – The people you want to reach (your customers) use it. Listen to them.
Angie’s List conducted a survey and found that 58 percent of their respondents use Social Media. They consider it a strategic tool for business development.
Social Media is a powerful listening system. Sure, you can ask customers what they want, but they may or may not tell you what they need. However, overhear them talking with each other - well then, now you’re getting the straight skinny.
Imagine: What if Toyota’s unintended acceleration issue was realized sooner instead of later via Social Media? The New York Times on February 1, 2010 stated that Toyota’s slow recognition of the issue puts to question the company’s bedrock principle.
3 – Happy employees = happy customers = revenue + profit
A report called Executive Insights into Enterprise Social Network Strategy indicated that Social Media was critical to providing a work-life balance for employees. Employees don’t operate “9 to 5”. Rather, they mix their personal and work lives. Sure, there’s the risk that promoting Social Media could cause distraction during the “work day” - but it also promotes “work” in the “off hours”.
One of our clients learned this lesson in at least one case. They proudly proclaimed that securing one of their new clients was thanks to an employee trading Facebook messages with a “friend”. Upon closure of that deal, management didn’t care if the exchange happened during the day, at night… on-line… in-person… in a suit… or in sweats.
February 2, 2010
Cat-Strat | MEDIA